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Reynolds’s Allegedly Safer ‘Eclipse’ Cigarette Casts a Dark Shadow

Reynolds’s Allegedly Safer ‘Eclipse’ Cigarette Casts a Dark Shadow

WASHINGTON—A safer cigarette from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company? Leading antismoking groups don’t buy it, and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala expressed “significant concerns about the marketing plans” for RJR’s new Eclipse brand.

Reynolds is expanding test marketing of its new product with the claim that, compared with other cigarettes now available, Eclipse “may reduce the risk of smoking-associated cancers.” The company has been test marketing Eclipse in three US cities, offering the cigarettes by mail only.

The concept behind the Eclipse is that it primarily heats tobacco rather than burns it. The cigarette uses a charcoal heat source containing a small amount of tobacco at its tip, which burns. The heat from the burning tip passes through a length of tobacco, which doesn’t burn, and glycerin, which vaporizes. The result is smoke and flavor reaching the smoker.

Reynolds says Eclipse burns only about 3% of the tobacco in a traditional cigarette. The company also claims the new cigarette contains 80% lower levels of many carcinogens in smoke, produces 90% fewer skin tumors in mice, and produces 70% less exposure to mutagens.

“The tobacco industry’s long history of deception should give the American public pause,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. “RJR’s health claims, which have not been substantiated by any federal or independent body, only serve to confuse the public about the dangers of tobacco.”

HHS Secretary Shalala said, “We need to know much more about the extent of any reduction in exposure to toxins, and whether this actually reduces the overall risk of smoking in a meaningful way. Until then, smokers should be very careful about assuming that products like Eclipse are in any way safer than cigarettes.”

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